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Proposition V. That the self-existent being must be eternal.

V. Proposition V. That the self-existent being must be eternal. Though the substance or essence of the self-existent being is in itself absolutely incomprehensible to us; yet many of the essential attributes of his nature are strictly demonstrable, as well as his existence. Thus, in the first place, the self-existent being must of necessity be eternal. The ideas of eternity and self-existence are so closely connected, that, because something must of necessity be eternal independently and without any outward cause of its being, therefore it must necessarily be self-existent; and, because it is impossible but something must be self-existent, therefore it is necessary that it must likewise be eternal. To be self-existent, is (as has been already shown,) to exist by an absolute necessity in the nature of the thing itself. Now this necessity being absolute, and not depending upon any thing external, must be always unalterably the same; nothing being alterable but what is capable of being affected by somewhat without itself. That being, therefore, which has no other cause of its existence but the absolute necessity of its own nature, must of necessity have existed from everlasting, without beginning; and must of necessity exist to everlasting without end.

As Of the manner of our conceiving the eternity of God. to the manner of this eternal existence: it is manifest, it herein infinitely transcends the manner of the existence of all created beings, even of such as shall exist for ever; that whereas it is not possible for their finite minds to comprehend all that is past, or to understand perfectly all things that are at present, much less to know all that is future, or to have entirely in their power any thing that is to come; but their thoughts, and knowledge, and power must of necessity have degrees and periods, and be successive and transient as the things themselves. The eternal supreme cause, on the contrary, (supposing him to be an intelligent being, which will hereafter 39be proved in the sequel of this discourse,) must of necessity have such a perfect, independent, and unchangeable comprehension of all things, that there can be no one point or instant of his eternal duration, wherein all things that are past, present, or to come, will not be as entirely known and represented to him in one single thought or view; and all things present and future be equally entirely in his power and direction as if there was really no succession at all, but all things were actually present at once. Thus far we can speak intelligibly concerning the eternal duration of the self-existent being; and no atheist can say this is an impossible, absurd, or insufficient account. It is, in the most proper and intelligible sense of the words, to all the purposes of excellency and perfection, interminabilis vitæ tota simul et perfecta possessio; the entire and perfect possession of an endless life.

Others With respect to succession. have supposed that the difference between the manner of the eternal existence of the supreme cause, and that of the existence of created beings, is this: that, whereas the latter is a continual transient succession of duration, the former is one point or instant comprehending eternity, and wherein all things are really co-existent. But this distinction I shall not now insist upon, as being of no use in the present dispute, because it is impossible to prove and explain it in such a manner as ever to convince an atheist that there is any thing in it; and besides, as, on the one hand, the schoolmen have indeed generally chosen to defend it, so, on the other hand,4141    Crucem ingenio figere, ut rem capiat fugientem captum.—Tam fieri non potest, ut instans [temporis] coexistant rei successivæ, quam impossibile est punctum coexistere [coexistendi] lineæ.—Lusus merus non intellectorum verberum.Gassend. Physic. lib. 1.
   I shall not trouble you with the inconsistent and unintelligible notions of the schoolmen; that it [the eternity of God] is duratio tota simul, in which we are not to conceive any succession, but to imagine it an instant. We may as well conceive the immensity of God to be a point, as his eternity to be an instant.—And how that can be together, which must necessarily be imagined to be co-existent to successions, let them that can, conceive.—Archbishop Tillotson, vol. 7. serm. 13.

   Others say, God sees and knows future things, by the presentiality and co-existence of all things in eternity; for they say, that future things are actually present and existing to God, though not in mensura propria, yet in mensura aliena. The schoolmen have much more of this jargon and canting language. I envy no man the understanding these phrases; but to me they seem to signify nothing, but to have been words invented by idle and conceited men, which a great many ever since, lest they should seem to be ignorant, would seem to understand. But I wonder most, that men, when they have amused and puzzled themselves and others with hard words, should call this explaining things.—Archbishop Tillotson, vol. 6. serm. 6.
there are 40many learned men, of far better understanding and judgment, who have rejected and opposed it.


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